I photographed more than one subject on July 4th, 2019. That was a normal 4th of July: festivals, parades, car shows, and fireworks. No worries about COVID-19. I had no idea where we would be today when I chose to save these photos and post them in July 2020. Since some cities are cancelling fireworks shows this year, I’m glad I saved these photos for today.
Photographing fireworks is not seen as serious photography, but it comes with its own set of challenges. To begin with, you are working in the blind. You can’t really see what you are capturing. The subject is there one moment and gone the next. It’s a long exposure, requiring a tripod. Usually, I focus on the first blasts. I’ve read to focus at infinity, but that doesn’t seem to work. I also ignore the recommendation to include a building or other landmark for sense of place. This is mostly because the best fireworks show in my area for good looking buildings is in a part of town I don’t feel safe in, particularly after dark. I forsake the city and trudge along the cornfields to the athletic field of a small town high school. The roads are lined with trucks full of families, and the ditches are thick with mosquitoes. But I can get close and get a clear view. Sometimes, I decide I need to back up a bit after the first bursts go off. I stand with my camera on my tripod and work as the blasts light up the sky and the sound waves resonate around me and through me. For me, a fireworks show is an active event, not a passive one. I am caught up in it, seeing it, feeling it, and capturing it.
Digital is a big help with fireworks. I can see if I’m on the right track with exposure. I used to always start my exposure when I heard the launch. I’d read to do that somewhere. The problem is, a long exposure captures the event much differently than we see it live. The fireworks end up looking like flowers with long stems.
It’s a cool effect sometimes, but it doesn’t really look like fireworks the way we see them in real time. So I started waiting longer and trying to time them closer to the actual explosion. There’s also the problem of the light trails. To they eye, fireworks are little specks and dashes of light. But again, the exposure to capture the whole thing unfolding makes them look like continuous lines. So I started trying to time it so I didn’t have the full duration of some of the fireworks to get a little more sparkle. The loud little gold ones could be helpful with this, but they also make a lot of smoke. The smoke illuminated by the blasts does not look pretty.
Practice, luck, and some editing for contrast and saturation. And I crop. As you can see, I chose to abandon normal aspect ratios for many of these. Fireworks photos are pretty abstract sometimes. Find the flowers, the trees, the space jellyfish, etc. Imagine. Have fun. In the two below, I see a flowering cactus (I admit I rotated it) and an ornamental tree. What’s a celebration for if you can’t have fun with it?
I know things are different this year, but I hope you are able to have a safe and happy holiday anyway. You made it a little more than halfway through 2020, and that itself is worth celebrating, even if you aren’t an American observing our Independence Day.
These photos were taken on the 30th of September 2017, an entire year ago. It was a beautiful day. I was visiting my parents about two years after moving out on my own. I don’t live that far, but it’s far enough and I’m busy enough that I don’t get out to the parks and forest preserves I used to frequent. Dad and I went on a long photo hike that day. We went to the park with the confusing set of foot trails and horse trails (where you need to watch where you step), with streams, woods, meadows, and hills. No fall color at that point, but the vegetation was browning and fading for the year.
We crossed out of the woods up the hills towards the horse path area. There were trees and a stream.
We continued to the horse path area because there was milkweed there, and Dad loves to photograph milkweed. I’m sure he has better pictures. It is a small obsession of his.
Then, we ended up out on a country road a little uncertain of exactly where we were. We found our way back to the park entrance. I kept getting gravel in my shoes and having to empty them. Does that matter a year later? No, but it’s part of the experience. Kind of a minor slightly humorous inconvenience.
We had the light, the nature, the photos, the time together. It was a beautiful day. Not perfect. Just beautiful.
I’ve had an exceptionally busy week, so unfortunately, this post is late. It is also archive that I’ve been saving for a time like this. When I was in Michigan visiting family and the Sleeping Bear Dunes, I also visited the butterfly house in Traverse City. It was not quite ready to open at that point. My uncle works for the local MSU extension office in the area. As a result, he and my aunt got to know the young couple who own and run the butterfly house.
Unfortunately, we arrived on a sad day for them. Many of their butterflies had died due to pesticides. I did not realize this, but most plants purchased at greenhouses and box stores have pesticides on them or in the soil. These pesticides kill butterflies as well as undesirable insects. Of course, the owners of the butterfly house knew this. They had asked the company they purchased the plants from specific questions about pesticides. However, the answers they got did not match with the plants they got. Fortunately, not all of the butterflies were out of their cocoons yet, and all of the fruit feeding butterflies were fine.
They look rather drab on the outside, but inside, these butterflies have brilliant blue wings.
I did not touch the butterflies. They are delicate, and you have to know how to handle them so as not to hurt them. Others in our group did know how and had permission.
The butterflies can and do land on people. They have signs on the way out of the enclosure asking guests to check for hitchhikers. Since my dad is a quite and steady type, the butterflies liked him.
Despite the sad death of some of the butterflies that day, I enjoyed visiting the butterfly house and photographing the butterflies. Perhaps I will be able to go back someday or visit another butterfly house. In the meantime, I should do some pesticide research.
Next Time: End of Archive?
I’ve a three-day weekend coming up, so hopefully I’ll be able to shoot something.
Overall, 2014 was a good year of photographic explorations and blogging. I did some archive posts because of other things I was involved with, and I didn’t finish my video essay (yet). However, I did have some memorable explorations: two new cities, a new park, and some foggy conditions. That and a new camera for higher resolution and video capabilities. I explored and learned a lot. Below are some highlights from 2014:
As usual, I plan to keep blogging every other week and spend a lot of time in nature – all four season are beautiful. I also want to get back into more table top (it’s a skill I need to work at and winter isn’t just beautiful, it’s cold!). Hopefully, I will finish the video, shoot macro, post more good cat photos, and have a few adventures. Only time will tell.
I hope I’m not barking up the wrong tree with this post. May is high time for some nature photography, but the only flowers out right now are small and the weather isn’t conducive to macro photography. So, I photographed bark. Don’t quit on me yet, I found some unusual examples. Promise.
This rough yet somewhat orderly old tree trunk is shrouded in a kind of green lichen. I love the color. It really gives the whole tree a surreal quality.
Near the base of the same tree, there is this cute Shamrock shape.
It looks like there’s been some controlled burning in the woods. Most of the bark fell off of this tree, leaving some charred remnants and unusual marbled patterns. What shapes do you see?
Closer to home, I found this small tree trunk with a coral-looking lump of lichen growing on it. Since it was pretty still, I did a little macro lens practice.
And just incase you wanted to see for sure, this is about where most of our flowers are.
Next Time: Flowers or That Awesome Old Phone
2012 was a good year for many things. I continued my blogging and discovered a new park. I also found work and some balance in my life. Farewell 2012, hello 2013. May our goals for the year ahead be challenging but doable. May we be willing to modify them if need be to achieve success. Happy New Year! Wishing everyone the best in 2013!
Next Time: Snow Photos or the start of The Big Project
Because of work and other obligations I had last week, this post is unfortunately late and archived. Exactly one year ago today, I went to visit an obscure park not so far from my home. My father found it driving home from work one day and suggested I check it out. The park was mostly pines and some drying prairie. Pretty much everything was sitting dormant waiting for the winter. I never got around to editing or posting these shots untill now.
Next Week: Archive or Controls
Controls as in dials, knobs, buttons, and thingamabobs.
Sorry for the late and archive post. I had a temporary job for several days that took a lot of my time and energy, so I haven’t been doing much else. These shots are from an assignment from my digital photography class back in the first semester of my sophomore year in college. Our final assignment was to get creative with Photoshop, and these are some of the pieces I still think have merit.
I remember liking the leaf and wanting to put it on a different color than the dull pavement. So I turned the background blue and added a texture glass filter to it. I still like the colors and textures, but it’s not what I’d create these days.
Admittedly, this next one was never a stellar photo, just a plain shot of a flower in the shade one afternoon. However, I still like the effect. I used one layer with a slight accented edges filter for the flower and another layer for glow and darkened the background. If I did it over, I’d tighten the vignette and make it darker.
This is a composite of many layers with some glow and color layers added for mood and effect. It was a personal favorite at the time, but now I think the cutouts are a tad lacking. Still, I am pleased with the overall effect.
Strange thing about this last one. It was the first shot I put together, and I didn’t really like it. If the lab hadn’t closed early the night I was finishing up this project, I would have made another and never turned this in. I was surprised to find it was my teachers favorite of my ten, and it tied for her favorite in the entire class. Personally, I favored one of my classmate’s image of a giant clothes iron about to crush a parking lot full of cars.
So there you have it: a brief history of my non retouching and non graphic arts uses of Photoshop.
Next Week: the kitty pictures I was going to do this week